Vegetarianism And Triathletes

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  • Published Mar 4, 2011
  • Updated Dec 17, 2012 at 4:14 PM UTC

March is National Nutrition Month. So in honor of it, Inside Triathlon senior editor Jennifer Purdie chats with professional triathlete Brendan Brazier about his strict plant-based diet. What are the advantages of being vegetarian and participating in sport?

Brazier: Being a vegetarian doesn’t guarantee success in sport. However, once you get it right, recovery and muscle functionality go up. You don’t need to spend as much energy to move muscles. So you can train more in less time. You don’t hit the “overtraining” mark as easily as many athletes do. Also, less digestive energy is used and more nutrients are allowed in. On the flip side, do you see any disadvantages?

Brazier: The hardest part of being vegetarian is probably just finding places to eat on the road. I’m on the road a lot and graze all day. So I can find what I need at a place like Whole Foods, so mainly I just buy groceries. I’ll eat a lot of fruits, veggies, whole foods, big salads and plant-based smoothies, so I can make my diet choice convenient when I travel. I have this vega-formulation I developed a while back and is based on whole food nutrition and really works for travelers. Also, this diet can work socially because you don’t need to sit down to a big dinner. You’ve been grazing all day, so you aren’t too hungry for dinner anyway. Other than that, I haven’t really found any disadvantages. What do you eat to get in your protein?

Brazier: People don’t realize that most whole foods have protein in them. Most unprocessed foods inherently have protein, such as kale and pseudo-grains like quinoa and buckwheat. I also eat lentils, beans, and a mix of hemp, pea and rice protein, which balance each other out. I get a lot less protein than conventional sports nutrition books say I should, and I’ve lost a little weight because of it, but I didn’t lose any strength. Walk us through what you eat in a day.

Brazier: I graze all day on fruits and veggies. I also work on creating my own recipes for my books. I also make my own energy gels and sports drinks. What advice would you give to any triathletes thinking of following a plant-based diet?

Brazier: Start slow. Do not do too much too soon. It’s just like in running. You would do a 5K before a 10K. So do not incorporate too many changes into your body all at once. Off season is best to make nutrition changes. So start with something like a plant-based smoothie after a workout just to change your palate a little. It’s important not to think about the things you can’t eat, but think about all the new things you can. Anything else you’d like to add?

Brazier: If you visit the site, which is based on my book Thrive, you will receive three emails per week for four weeks (12 emails total) that discuss the main principles of a plant-based diet.

Brendan Brazier a professional Ironman triathlete, bestselling author and the creator of an award-winning line of whole food nutritional products called VEGA. He is also a two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion. He has written Thrive and Thrive Fitness that explains a vegan-based lifestyle and vegan-based training program.

Jennifer Purdie

Jennifer Purdie is the Senior Editor of Inside Triathlon

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